Ethics of genome editing: key points from ‘CRISPR Journal’ special issue

Publications converged on a few common points:

  • Two institutional reports are regarded as the most important for the whole field: NASEM 2017 and Nuffield 2018 (in line with our recent assessment).
  • He Jiankui’s experiment is widely referred, serves as an exemplary negative case in all bioethical discussions.
  • From the legal point of view, moratorium on germline editing would be redundant in the USA, where FDA is obliged by the Congress to reject any proposal touching germline editing.
  • Medical editing is generally accepted among both professionals and the public, but at the same time there is low need for introduction of germline medical editing.
  • Germline editing is abbreviated to two acronyms: GGE (germline genome editing) and HGE (heritable genome editing).

Individual articles provided some interesting remarks:

  • “It would take about a decade to the legal [moratorium] route and make sure that all countries sign and ratify” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.29071.bkn)
  • “Public distrust becomes significantly more probable when people are shut out of the conversation by an impatient scientific community that unilaterally declares what is moral and decides without debate how far research should go” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0047)
  • “Although a typical small-molecule drug can recoup the substantial costs of development and clinical testing via repeated sales to a market of thousands or millions of patients, a genetic therapy may only be applicable to a few dozen patients, and a one-time (or annual) high-efficacy administration often supplants the daily pill format. In hopes of offsetting these factors, treatments are sold for amounts as high as $2 million” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0052)
  • “Further, if GGE to eliminate deafness becomesa norm, how will people who cannot afford germline editing be viewed by society?” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0042)
  • “We estimate that 17,600 patients would benefit from GGE of aneuploid embryos. (…) The prospect of GGE for chromosomal correction could have a tremendous impact on IVF patients” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0044)
  • “Although many ethicists may be unfamiliar with his [A. Huxley] other writings, these strongly suggest that Brave New World was never meant to be a warning about technologies such as CRISPR” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0046)
  • “[parents of aneuploidic children] prioritized ameliorating life-threatening health issues when those were present; many also emphasized increasing their children’s communication and cognitive ability” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0021)
  • “A high level of support for human gene editing among genetics professionals, particularly the pursuit of future therapeutic applications of somatic editing and openness to deliberations on germline uses” (doi:10.1089/crispr.2019.0020)

The issue is available here:

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